Bishop Socrates Mesiona of the Puerto Princesa Diocese has condemned as a deplorable act the slaying of forest ranger Bienvinido “Toto” Veguilla Jr. by an illegal logger in El Nido.
In a statement posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news website on September 10, Mesiona said the killing of Veguilla who was just doing his job to protect the environment that has become prone to illegal logging activities was a sad event that took place during the celebration of the “Season of Creation”.
“It tells us that protecting our environment can be risky and dangerous. It is unfortunate that the attack on his life happened when we in the church are celebrating the month of creation,” Mesiona said.
Mesiona hopes that Veguilla’s death “will not be in vain and will awaken the resolve to protect and preserve the environment”.
According to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), a U.S.-based non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform, Veguilla is “the 18th environmental defender” to be killed in Palawan since 2001.
Veguilla was hacked to death on September 4 in Barangay Pasadeña after an encounter with a group of illegal loggers whose chainsaw his team confiscated.
In September 2017, Villa Libertad barangay captain Ruben Arzaga was also killed when he was shot while arresting suspected illegal loggers.
Forester Joselito Eyala was also shot and wounded by suspected illegal loggers while patrolling the mountains of Bacungan village in August 2017.
Veguilla’s death has made the last ecological frontier the third deadliest province in the Philippines with an average of one killing incident a year.